Picking up from where Probable Cause: FAQs (Pt. 1) left off, below, we will continue to respond to frequently asked questions about probable cause and the criminal justice system.
Q – What is probable cause to make an arrest?
A – Probable cause to make an arrest will be based on the specific facts and circumstances of a given case. That being stated, however, probable cause for an arrest generally exists when certain facts exist to warrant a law enforcement official’s reasonable suspicion that illegal activity has been (or will be) committed.
In other words, it’s not enough for officers to have a hunch. Reasonable suspicion must be present to the degree that any reasonable person would suspect that a crime has occurred and that the incident should be further investigated.
Q – What is probable cause to conduct a search?
A – When police do not have search warrants, they may still legally search a person and/or his property if there is probable cause to conduct the search. Here, again, however, the specific nature of the probable cause will depend on the situation and case.
For instance, it may be possible to argue that police officers had probable cause to search a suspect or his property when that individual may have been seen running from the scene of a robbery or murder. In fact, warrants are generally not needed to search someone who has allegedly been witnessed committing a felony.
Here, it’s also important to point out that, regardless of what serves as the basis for probable cause, police will have to be able to articulate the basis of probable cause in the future, and details regarding the specific probable cause should be included in the police report for a given incident. When there are issues with either of these factors (i.e., police can’t remember what the probable cause was or the police report does not clearly explain it), it may be possible to:
- Challenge the validity of an arrest
- Get evidence against the accused dismissed
- Get the charges against the accused reduced or dropped (if and when possible).
For some final answers to common questions about probable cause, don’t miss the upcoming conclusion to this blog series!
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